Fires rage across Israel.
(photo credit: JACK GUEZ / AFP)
The usually spectacular views from the Jerusalem-area hilltop village of Nataf were marred on Thursday by scorched black hillsides and smoke borne by blistering winds that lingered from fires that raged in the area on Wednesday.
The wind, coupled with the dry conditions, spread a blaze that engulfed the home of Yuval Cohen, 33.
Cohen’s home, which sits on the outskirts of the town 15 km. west of Jerusalem, is now uninhabitable, and on Thursday he was salvaging what was left.
“We woke up in the morning and all the valley was covered in smoke and fog, and we understood that there was a big problem. So we pulled up all the water hoses and wet the area,” said Cohen, as he stood in front of the burnt rubble that used to be his home. “People from around the town joined us – it was inspiring to see the village coming together,” he said.
The home, built 30-years-ago by his parents, was also a center of Buddhist vipassana, or mindfulness meditation. He said that his meditative practice has helped him gain perspective on the loss of the house.
“We practice non-attachment, so this is kind of a test for us at this moment, to see things disappearing like this. But we keep a smile, because it is only material possessions,” Cohen said, adding that the house does have fire insurance.
The home was one of two that were destroyed in Nataf on Wednesday, and among hundreds that have been damaged as fires rage across Israel.
While unsubstantiated accusations of nation-wide, coordinated arson attacks have circulated in the Israeli media and among right-wing MKs, many Nataf residents sought refuge in the adjacent Israeli Arab town of Abu Gosh.
“As soon as we heard about the fire we opened the local community center and we brought games and toys for children,” Abu Gosh local council head Issa Jabar told Yediot Aharonot on Tuesday.
“It was very emotional to see all the people helping,” said Cohen, “They were our friends, but to see them fighting and risking their lives, it was amazing.”
Despite his own pragmatism at the loss of his house, Cohen’s mother was upset. “My mother said, ‘We lost our piece of heaven,’” he said. “I told her, ‘Don’t worry, obviously we are going to bring heaven back.’”